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Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He writes columns for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times international edition. 

Recent Articles

Press Mute

Free markets, taken to extremes, sometimes lead to monopolies. Monopolies, in turn, undermine the benefits of free markets -- consumer choice, innovation and competition to offer a good product at an attractive price. That's why even the most capitalistic of societies have laws and regulations against monopolies. If there were one supermarket chain or one hotel group or one airline, the quality would soon deteriorate to the level of service in the late Soviet Union. Consumers would be captive to higher prices, too. Mass media are a very special kind of product, because they involve not just commerce but speech. Congress and the courts have long endeavored to ensure that a wide diversity of voices will be heard. That is about to change for the worse next week, when the Federal Communications Commission is expected, by a 3-2 vote, to throw out several decades of regulation limiting media monopolies. The FCC chairman, Michael Powell, is trying to ram the vote through before wider...

Enemy Within

The winner of the Democrats' first debate was . . . George W. Bush. If you missed the televised South Carolina debate last Saturday night and only read about it in the papers, you might conclude that the whole thing was a demolition derby. In fact, only a small part of the debate was candidates criticizing each other. But that part grabbed the headlines, and a little attack goes a long way in damaging the whole field. George Stephanopoulos, as moderator, sounded like a cross between Jerry Springer and a Survivor show MC, egging on contestants to attack each other. It didn't take long for some to take the bait. Former Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.) tried to set a good example by refusing to play Stephanopoulos' game. Stephanopoulos asked if Dean still felt that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was trying to have it both ways on the Iraq war. Dean replied: "That's not up to me to judge that. That's up to the voters." Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), at first, also managed to stake out his own position...

Demolition Derby

Last week, in this space, I wrote a column bemoaning the Democrats' all-too-characteristic circular firing squad, and pronouncing the winner of the South Carolina Democratic primary debate George W. Bush. Since then, things have only gotten worse. Think of the nine-person Democratic field as several sub-fields. One sub-rivalry is the two New Englanders, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Both of their states border New Hampshire, site of the first 2004 primary. Whoever fails to carry his neighboring state could be knocked right out of the race. Kerry is the presumptive front-runner. He's liberal enough to satisfy the liberals, but credible enough on defense to satisfy the moderates. He also can sound and look very presidential (when he's not looking hangdog). Dean, in the weeks before the Iraq war, won the hearts of the party's left-liberals, He is trying to keep them, plus a large gay base, by building a grassroots army. His challenge is to...

Forward Progress

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood." -- Daniel H. Burnham With one exception, the health plans released by the Democratic presidential contenders are a set of little plans. They leave the current system largely intact and use subsidies and tax credits to reduce the number of uninsured -- as if the whole system were not broken. With slight variations, this is the approach chosen by both former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. And North Carolina Senator John Edwards and Connecticut's Joe Lieberman will likely do the same. Congressman Dick Gephardt, by contrast, had the nerve to throw a long pass. The problem is that he hurled it in the wrong direction. Gephardt began well. He proposed to repeal Bush's entire 2001 tax cut. He added another bold feature: opening Medicare to people over 55. But the rest of his plan mainly gives tax breaks to corporations that provide health coverage for their workers. This sounds good, until you...

The Great Crash, Part II

In the Company of Owners: The Truth about Stock Options (And Why Every Employee Should Have Them) By Joseph Blasi, Douglas Kruse and Aaron Bernstein, Basic Books, $27.50, 344 pages Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron By Robert Bryce, Public Affairs, $27.50, 320 pages What Went Wrong at Enron: Everyone's Guide to the Largest Bankruptcy in U.S. History By Peter C. Fusaro and Ross M. Miller, John Wiley & Sons, $14.95, 256 pages Take on the Street: What Wall Street and Corporate America Don't Want You to Know By Arthur Levitt with Paula Dwyer, Pantheon Books, $24.95, 352 pages Final Accounting: Ambition, Greed, and the Fall of Arthur Andersen By Barbara Ley Toffler with Jennifer Reingold, Broadway Books, $24.95, 288 pages The lessons of the stock-market crash and corporate scandals of 1999-2002 are only now beginning to sink in. The larger story is the second collapse of laissez-faire as a plausible ideology and an efficient way of organizing the economy. But unlike its...

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